Tension Remains High in Sadrist Areas
Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi, legendary leader of the Iraqi Hizbullah, which organized the Shiite Marsh Arabs to fight Saddam, has suspended his membership in the Interim Governing Council (IGC) in order to protest American actions in attacking the Sadrist movement. Al-Muhammadawi met Friday with Muqtada al-Sadr, whom the Americans say they will arrest (according to AP). Were Muhammadawi and the Marsh Arabs to turn against the Americans, they would be formidable foes.
Although Neoconservative circles in the US continued to attempt to blame Iran for the Shiite insurgency, it is obvious that it is homegrown and that it was deliberately provoked by the Americans, perhaps by the Neocons themselves. With their typical arrogance, they vastly underestimated the support for Muqtada in the country, and underestimated the degree to which even Iraqis who do not like him would violently resist the US moving against him. The Neoconservatives, egged on by Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, want to widen the war to Iran so as to overthrow the government in Tehran, and apparently don’t give a rat’s ass about the American lives that would be lost attempting to occupy Iran, a country 3 times larger than Iraq.
az-Zaman/ AFP: The office of Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarrisi said yesterday that Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr was still in spiritual retreat with a number of his aids in the Great Mosque of Kufa, contrary to the rumors that had spread that he had left the mosque and gone to an unknown site in Najaf.
Sadrists continued to control Kufa, Najaf, East Baghdad and much of Karbala.
American troops, which had faced heavy fighting and harassment in the Shiite slums of East Baghdad or Sadr City, gave up and withdrew from the civilian areas on Friday, according to wire service reports and the Arabic press. The US does retain control of the police stations in East Baghdad, but these are apparently isolated garrisons and the writ of US rule runs no farther than the fences around them.
Tension continued high in Karbala one day before Arba’in, where large numbers of pilgrims have arrived to visit the tomb of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Muqtada’s men control the street of Imam Abbas, though Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s aids still control the shrines of Imam Husayn and his brother Abbas. Some reports said 4 persons were killed and 22 were wounded in clashes inside the city. Another 15 Iraqis and 6 Iranians were killed at a Polish checkpoint outside the city (is it being alleged that their vehicles did not stop, and trigger-happy Bulgarian and Polish troops shoot them dead?) Because of its centrality to the Shiite religious passion story, Karbala is a particularly sensitive place in symbolic politics for Coalition troops to shoot pilgrims.
In Madrid, Spanish authorities said that three Spanish troops were wounded, one seriously, in an ambush at Diwaniyah on Thursday night or Friday morning.
Fighting broke out again between Italian troops and Sadrists in Nasiriyah.
Meanwhile, the American army announced that it had regained control of the southern city of Kut Friday morning, after Muqtada’s forces had established control of it the previous two days. Other reports suggested that US control is still only partial. US troops, accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, fought fierce gun battles with Sadrists until about 5 am on Friday, according to ash-Sharq al-Awsat. They then destroyed Sadr’s office in Kut. There was no estimate of the number of Shiites killed in this assault.
In Samawah, according to az-Zaman, the representative of Muqtada al-Sadr resigned after refusing to stage a demonstration against the Japanese. Shaikh Kadhim al-`Awadi said, “The office of Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf asked me to resign from the office in Samawah because it had given me the responsibility for organizing demonstrations . . . I left the office as a result, and it will appoint someone else to take my place, but he has not arrived yet.” There are about 500 Japanese Self Defence Forces in Samawah, which arrived last month for reconstruction duties rather than for military ones.
If the situation were not so tragic, this last anecdote would be humorous; imagine a Sadrist leader who declines to hold demonstrations against Japanese who probably don’t want to be there.